Andre Thomas said farewell to the Clapton fans on an emotional night at the Mile End Stadium.
He’s been coach, he’s been assistant manager, he’s been caretaker manager, but for one night only Andre also became the Ultras’ capo, leading some of the songs himself.
On the pitch, the Tons bounced back from going 1-0 down to a Sporting Bengal side who often prove to be a thorn in our side.
Ryan Reed scored the first two, including the pearler of a free-kick below, before Jeffrey Cobblah sealed the points with perhaps an even lovelier run and shot.
So club legend Andre departed with a 3-1 win, leaving the Tons in sixth place, and in the celebrations afterwards he turned the tables by singing one of the Ultras’ songs back at them.
We couldn’t let him leave us without asking him to compile his best ever Clapton XI from his two years at the club.
So, as Andre jumps on the District Line to Upney, to take up the assistant manager’s job with ambitious Bostik League side Barking, here’s his team in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
It’s a position that we have always had issues filling after Pape Diagne.
As you know, “there’s only one king Pepe, he keeps the ball out the netty,” but recently we’ve been blessed with the talents of Richie Robins, Emmanuel Olajide, Ignas Budvytis and Mark Kavanagh.
Even when Pape was around we had Alex Biddle and Yakup Seyer who also make credible bids.
However the keeper I’m going to go with is a leader, who talks as much as me, has great reactions, good feet, great kicking and in my opinion is a complete GK who is always trying to get better.
My goalkeeper is Emmanuel Olajide.
In a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.
There’s other natural centre-backs I could have gone with but I know that this guy would give me his all then go get some from the opposition and then give me that too.
He’ll probably complain about playing here telling me this isn’t his position but he’ll stop sulking as soon as the whistle has blown and probably end up getting the Man of The Match Award.
It was a flip of the coin between he and Lanre Vigo but my right-sided centre-back is Kristian Haighton.
So many names come to mind. I think of Euan Taylor-Reid, the cup final penalty specialist; Idu Bogdan, who is as hard as a rock; Pete Moore, the coach on the pitch who always talks; Quincy Egbejale, legs long enough to cover the back four; Eamon Payne, goalscoring centre-back; Jamie Lyndon, Mr No Nonsense.
There’s also Zach Miller, Jesse Mckenzie, Nick Loblack, Hussain Jaffa and even Freddie Morris who wouldn’t wanna play there but could.
However, I’ve gone with a centre back who is strong, fast, aggressive, technically sound, understands what I require and he’s a funny guy.
Great character in the dressing room, always has his teammates backs and is the first one swinging his handbag. I’m going with Dylan Ebengo.
As I said earlier, in a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.
On this side I’ve gone with a player who I feel can play this position as I’ve simply not seen a man take him on one-on-one and beat him. That will always give the team confidence.
Again Pete Moore, Francis Best-Ebanks and Yusuf Bello make solid claims as they’re all naturally left footed, strong and good defenders.
However, I’ve gone with the super impressive, super hero Tayo Awoderu. He’ll have to come training though, lol.
Central midfielders x 2
I think the two midfield positions, along with the two forwards, will be the hardest decision.
With the options available to me, it’s very difficult.
Steven Sardinha, Freddie Morris, Bradley Joseph, Paul Oshin, Geoff Ocran, Paul Barry, Reece Hewitt, Louis Rene, Scott Hill, Siao Blackwood and JoJo DeGraft are a few of the many midfield generals I’ve worked with, all packed with experience, quality, pace, power, packed with lungs of a V8 engine, skill, trickery, goals and unreal technique.
The only reason I’ve selected these two to be the midfielders holding for me is because they’ve got everything I’ve listed above and they both ‘get it’. I’m not saying the rest don’t because they definitely do.
The reason they do is because of the levels these two midfielders have set.
When the going gets tough I want someone who’ll put their body on the line, even if it means broken limbs.
In addition to that if we need a 90th minute goal and we have a free kick I wanna make sure he’s on them.
The two midfielders I’ve gone with are the Clapton legends Jerry Jairette and James Briggs.
This player has improved so so much, was under the radar.
He dedicated himself to his craft and got fit and then caused havoc for opposition full backs.
He’s got two great feet, skills in abundance, great first touch and beautiful hair.
Another set piece specialist with the world going crazy for Messi and CR7, I’m glad to have RR7.
To play on the left wing is Ryan Reed.
Centre attacking midfield
Again many, many players who can play in this role. Raphael Duyile who is technically sublime as well as very versatile and intelligent was also an option.
So was Tom ‘goal machine’ Webb and even Stefan Nielsen.
But it’s got to go to a player that had Tons from the 2014-15 season in awe.
I won’t ever forget my first pre-season game when we played a Harold Hill XI and he had never played with these guys.
He had never played any level higher than this one and was playing with the likes of Billy Wise (who actually ran this guy very close for the vote), James Briggs, Shomari Barnwell, Troy Ricketts and JoJo Degraft yet looked superb, like he had been there for years and knew how to create magic.
Funnily enough he has now been here for 3 seasons and he does know how to create magic. He gets it from his hat.
Playing in the CAM role is Nathan Cook.
Khadz Campbell, Aundre Spencer, Johnny Ashman, Raphael Duyile, Paul Barry and Jeffrey Cobblah. Players that come to mind when I think of stars that can play on that right hand side.
I’ve gone with a guy whose name rings bells but only rang the bells of his college colleagues before this.
He came to the club and played over 40 games in his first season only being on the bench once and this was due to his quality on the pitch, his attitude and attendance to training and the game, his hunger to fight off all that tried to take his spot and he’s done it once more.
To play on the right is none other than Johnny Ashman.
Centre forwards x 2
Clapton have been blessed with tremendous forwards and I’ve been lucky to work with the likes of Fahad Nyanja, Warren Mfula, Jay Knight, Ike Nzurba, Miles Hunter, Roddy Lemba, Sherwin Stanley, Tony Cookey and Ajani Domingo-Carrington to name a few.
However, I’ve gone with one of the most natural finishers I’ve worked with.
Top top forwards score with both feet and their head, this guy is able to do that and also score with his junk.
One of my two centre forwards is Jay Knight.
The reason I’ve selected the second guy is because for me he epitomises what a striker should be for me.
Hard-working, relentless, gives 100% effort for his team and the shirt he wears.
He’s a nightmare when you’re against him but a dream when he’s on your team.
I’ve seen him get into the heads of opposition players warming up on the side, he already gains the edge on them before they even get subbed on.
I call him my Non-League Diego Costa.
My forward to join Jay is none other than Mr Warren Mfula.